Tourism is the second largest industry in Smithfield - with ham being the first, of course! Visitors attracted to our area are critical to the local economy. The products we are promoting are the local shops, attractions, restaurants and lodgers - and the experience the visitors have when they are here - and that's where you come in! You are a vital part of the local tourism industry. You serve on the front lines. You can make or break a visitor's experience and ensure that they will (or won't!) return! Think about a time you received wonderful customer service. How did it make you feel? Would you return to the business? Of course you would! And the memory of that service will be a large part of how you remember your entire experience there. So we thank you for taking the time to become more aware and informed of your local tourism industry and what we have to offer through the Hambassador Program.
What does your local Tourism Bureau do?
The Smithfield & Isle of Wight Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) is a marketing machine. We promote attractions, shops, restaurants, lodgers, and special events to attract visitors from Coastal Virginia, the state of Virginia, the rest of the U.S. and the world. We also offer group and guided tours, and produce multiple special events. Our primary function, however, is to "put heads in beds and feet on the street!" We are an economic development department funded by both the town of Smithfield and Isle of Wight County. The goal of the tourism bureau is to generate tax revenue. That means the more visitors we attract and money they spend, the less our residents and business owners have to pay in local taxes. Visitors spend their money here and then leave town. So we are all about attracting "outside" dollars to Smithfield & Isle of Wight County.
The Gift of Tourism
We like to say that we engage in "co-op-petition" (a friendly mix of cooperation and competition) with the other tourism bureaus in the area. Visitors don't care about boundaries, and we're happy to help them find information on other towns and cities. We partner very closely with the other CVB's in the Coastal Virginia area as active members of the Coastal Virginia Tourism Alliance.
We’re also proud participants in the Salty Southern Route – the path to Virginia’s Pork and Peanuts and Toast the Coast- Coastal Virginia’s Beer, Wine & Shine Trail.
We work closely with the state's tourism bureau, Virginia Tourism Corporation (of the "Virginia is for Lovers" Campaign) and are members of the Virginia Association of Destination Marketing Organizations and Virginia Restaurant, Lodging and Travel Association. We feature all our attractions, special events, and other merchants on the state's award-winning website.
A few numbers . . .
Who do we try to attract?
The tourism bureau has identified three key areas to target to bring visitors to our town and county.
About one half of our visitors are day trippers from Williamsburg. These folks are usually repeat visitors to the Historic Triangle of Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown, and they are looking for something different to see and do. We advertise heavily in the Williamsburg area and make monthly sales calls to their timeshares, reminding them to send visitors our way.
The other half of our day trippers live in Coastal Virginia (Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Newport News, Hampton, and Williamsburg). We work to remind them that we're here, especially by promoting our special events and encouraging group tours.
Finally, we know that folks in Richmond, North Carolina, and beyond love to visit Smithfield & Isle of Wight and we target these areas as well.
Plus! Did you know that we are the "Encore Wedding Capital of Virginia?" An Encore Wedding is a second+ wedding, or a renewal of vows. Smithfield and Isle of Wight have unique wedding and reception venues, just right for an Encore Bride's desire for a more intimate setting. The tourism bureau was awarded two Marketing Leverage Grants from the Virginia Tourism Corporation - the state's tourism office - to promote our wedding and reception venues. We placed multiple ads in bridal publications and had booths at several bridal shows. And it paid off... the number of our weddings doubled!
We celebrate the local Tourism Industry in May!
Every May we celebrate National Tourism Month with a celebration at the Smithfield Center.
We recognize our Hospitality Heroes, and honor a special "Hospitality Hero of the Year." Hospitality Heroes are nominated by owners and managers of local tourism-related businesses, and special event coordinators and directors, as well as the general public, who send us an email explaining why one of their employees or volunteers make our visitor's trips to Smithfield and Isle of Wight extra special.
We also recognize our Community Ambassadors (folks who contribute to the tourism industry by inviting groups they are affiliated with to hold meetings, conventions, and other events here in Smithfield and Isle of Wight County) and our Hambassadors - hope you can join us in May!
Who are we?
Your tourism bureau employs three full-time staff members:
Judy Winslow, Director of Tourism,
Lois Tokarz, Marketing & Public Relations Manager,
Debra Frank, Visitor Center Manager, and
Connie Chapman, Special Events Coordinator.
Part-time employees include: Kathy Mountjoy, Groups and Guided Tour Coordinator, and Teresa Frantz, Smithfield Farmers Market Manager, Cheryl Ketcham, Vintage & Pickers Markets Manager.
The CVB also employs several part-time docents who work the front desk at the Visitor Center and help with special events.
These folks are the heart of the visitor center and truly "front-line!" They include: Kathy Mountjoy, Kim Bynum, Bill Hanlon, Georgine Koenig, Ana Montiel, Robert Cox, Teresa Frantz and Debra Duncan.
Why "Genuine" Smithfield?
As industry slows, more and more localities are turning to tourism to generate tax revenue. Smithfield & Isle of Wight have had an active industry for 20+ years, but with more competition for visitors, it's important that we identify our "primary lure," - just what it is about Smithfield & Isle of Wight County that would make folks come here. What is something we offer that they can't get closer to home?
Smithfield 2020, a civic group of local community leaders, challenged themselves with a Branding Initiative in 2012 to create a new brand for the town of Smithfield. We invited several community members to take part in the process, offered several surveys to locals and non-residents, and as a result - Genuine Smithfield - " Savor Our Small-Town Southern Charm" - was born.
Why "Genuine?" We realized it was no accident that most of our visitors come from Williamsburg. What is the Williamsburg visitor looking for? As much as possible, they want to feel as if they have stepped back in time. And that's what we heard again and again from visitors - that when they visit Smithfield, it's as if they've gone back to a simpler and gentler time. While Colonial Williamsburg is a beautiful, entertaining and educational town offering a glimpse into its fascinating past, Historic Smithfield is a town that has continued to utilize its historic buildings as a part of its vibrant modern day community. We're the real deal. We're a small southern town with Genuine History, Genuine hams, and Genuine characters!